It is with great sadness that we record the news of the sudden illness and premature passing of Sir Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive of Diageo Plc. on Wednesday 7th June. Our thoughts and heartfelt sympathies are with his wife Shibani and their two children. The news is particularly distressing as he was about to retire at the end of June after nearly 26 years service to the industry leader. This was the culmination of a highly successful career in strategy, global marketing and general management.
He first became known to the industry as strategy director of Guinness plc, by then the owners of United Distillers, and this led to the merger with Grand Metropolitan and IDV. His first operational role was as integration director bringing together two highly successful, but in many ways quite different but complementary companies. Despite their being competitors, he was able to lead the transition to a single company, UDV, in a merger of equals within a year of the announcement, a remarkable achievement. Initially a leading food and drink company, its parent, Diageo, steadily moved to become a business totally focussed on premium drinks. Ivan was the first Global Marketing Director and then progressed through a series of increasingly senior positions in Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, and North America to become Chief Operating Officer, then Chief Executive in succession to Liveryman Paul Walsh in 2013.
His ten years as leader was characterised by tremendous growth in the company value through brand development and targeted acquisitions; as important was the development of the company as a trusted and respected proponent of good corporate practice in environment, society and governance issues, gender equality and diversity. The Board was transformed to have a majority of women and a diverse array of ethnic backgrounds. Personally, he was born in India where his father was chairman of the Railway Board and consequently Ivan held British, US and Overseas Indian citizenships. It perhaps explains his enthusiasm for Scotch Whisky and especially his beloved Johnnie Walker! The renaissance of this famous brand started under his leadership with the Keep Walking campaign launched in 1998.
As a livery we benefited enormously from the support Diageo provided as our first corporate member and their very generous donation to the One of One Auction which helped to multiply our Livery giving by tenfold. Our investment fund was founded by a large donation under the Macdonald Buchanan brand from the DCL, an antecedent of Diageo, in 1955. On a personal note having reported to him in the first days of the new company he was a pleasure to work with; he was very determined and set high standards but was approachable, friendly and always ready to hear a good proposal, provide advice or act as a mentor. He was perhaps at his most relaxed and best company at the Keepers of the Quaich events in Scotland where he was an enthusiastic and regular attendee. His former colleagues and friends will feel acutely the loss of an exemplary industry leader who did much for them, their company and the industry as a whole. In hindsight it is very fortunate and a comfort to his family, that his Knighthood was conferred earlier this year when he had the opportunity to know the esteem in which he was held and be personally rewarded for the enormous contribution he had made.
“This House believes the emergence of Whisky as a Private Investment Asset is good for the growth of the wider whisk(e)y market”
On June 6th an audience of over 100 Distillers, industry guests and other Livery colleagues convened at London Scottish House in eager anticipation of a debate of the motion
“This House believes the emergence of Whisky as a Private Investment Asset is good for the growth of the wider whisk(e)y market”
What ensued was a lively discussion around a highly topical subject, with passionate arguments expressed for and against the motion by a panel of trade experts.
A pre-debate count revealed 13 votes in favour of the motion, 25 against, and open minded, or perhaps discreet, abstentions from the remainder of the audience.
Opening in support of the motion was Jonny Fowle (Head of Whisky at Sotheby’s). He began by observing that investment by consumers in turn enables investment by the industry, driving expansion and growth within the sector and generating wider economic benefits such as jobs and tax income.
Wryly noting that brand owners have historically been enthusiastic about price inflation, the implication was that criticism of rising prices and scarcity arising from the appetite for private investment might seem slightly disingenuous.
Choosing to focus on the prestige bottled segment of the market, in which Sotheby’s specialises, Jonny praised the investment phenomenon for not only generating a halo effect across the whole Single Malt category, but also for preserving gems of yesteryear for the enjoyment of current drinkers.
He attributed this to the enhanced emotional and financial value of such rare whiskies protecting them from release or consumption under younger age statements.
To prove his point he very generously shared a 1964 Black Bowmore and 1982 Macallan Fine & Rare with two grateful audience members – an act of bribery which Chairman Trevor Stirling magnanimously waved through, despite not receiving a dram himself. Or at least not in front of the audience….
Turning from bottled to the controversy around what he termed “bad-faith actors in Cask-trading”, Jonny suggested that, rather than being a whisky industry problem per se, this was simply an example of the fraud problems found throughout the investment world – irrespective of asset class – driven by unscrupulous individuals rather than institutional shortcomings. He also noted that no one decries the traditional model of formal investment in whisky company shares, despite the Stock Market’s distinctly chequered record on fraud and transparency…
In closing, he urged the audience to see the many positives from private investment in prestige whisky as an investment asset, rather than allowing the actions of a few ‘bad apples’ to spoil the barrel.
In opposing the motion, Isabel Graham-Yooll (Auction Director of Whisky.Auction), cited the dangers of having an “unregulated investment vehicle” at the heart of the industry, which today faces an acute problem with roots stretching back to the 1960s.
She described the current cask investment landscape as a Pyramid Scheme, from which early investors have already extracted their profits, leaving dealers urgently needing to offload stocks before the music stops.
Lamenting that industry bodies seem to show little inclination to take a lead in introducing regulatory safeguards, Isobel illustrated just how extreme and irresponsible Cask marketing has become, by quoting a series of real-life sales pitches from current businesses.
A litany of grandiose and unsubstantiated phrases such as ‘guaranteed returns’, ‘double-digit growth’, ‘will only improve with age’, ‘risk-free as well as tax-free’ served to demonstrate how recklessly consumers are being targeted by “under-qualified brokers”.
Not only do these pose a threat to whisky investors’ financial security, their activities also create the feeding frenzy which sees mainstream press coverage in the likes of the Mail on Sunday and the Guardian, thus luring in less expert consumers who – unlike industry players – are not sufficiently cognisant of the importance of ‘caveat emptor’.
Isobel posited that the resulting spiral in cask values has also tarnished the bottled prestige sector,, with rising prices causing many whiskies to become ‘imprudent to open and vulgar to drink’, leaving no viable path other than to become dry investment assets rather than drams to be shared and savoured.
Finally, she warned that the exposure of greater numbers of investor-consumers to this phenomenon would inevitably worsen the fall-out and backlash when the pyramid collapses, concluding “the joke is on us [the industry], as it will all end in tears”
Taking a more upbeat view of the landscape Ian Harris MBE (former CEO of the WSET), spoke next in favour of the motion. He began by apologising that, unlike Jonny, he could not treat audience members to a dram, although it was unclear whether he meant during the debate, or on an ongoing basis…
Observing that “ investing in success is normal and healthy in a capitalist society”, Ian urged us not to be ashamed of embracing the growth of whisky as a private investment asset. After all, he commented, success of the trade since its earliest days has been driven by the audacious efforts of entrepreneurs in search of new profit.
In this sense, he suggested speculation in whisky is no different to any other alternative asset class which attracts public interest, with the same inherent uncertainty around outcomes.
Some, such as the 1980s Timeshare boom, prove to be white elephants, whilst for others, such as Solar Panels, the jury remains out. However, for the most relevant comparison to the current whisky investment trend, Ian cited the positive example of Fine Wine, with its record of financial appreciation, not to mention tax benefits. Supporting evidence took the form of a discreet anecdote about a necessarily anonymous rock star whose extensive interest in Bordeaux First Growths was allegedly motivated less by passion for the wines than the failure of traditional investment vehicles to give him any satisfaction…
However, Ian observed that most influential benefit from Fine Wine’s very public success as a private investment asset was the creation of Consumer Aspiration, which directly drove U.K. growth in the popularity of everyday wine over the 1970s & 80s. He argued that this halo effect is also an opportunity for Whisky at large, as the PR driven by investment-level sales helps foster global understanding and interest in all Single Malts. He contended that this increased Aspiration amongst the wider whisky cohort has been a significant driver of the 12% sales growth enjoyed by Prestige Plus whiskies (>£400/bt) over the last decade.
Furthermore, he finished, this combination of growth and premiumisation leads in turn to stronger profits for producers and their international partners, enabling their further inward investment in quality products and drinking experiences, thus rounding off a virtuous circle which benefits all in the wider whisky domain.
As final speaker of the evening, Nick Morgan (Industry Historian, Commentator and Author) stepped up to contest the motion, applying his historical perspective to warn that the current trend for unregulated cask trading will soon take its place alongside other ignominious episodes in the whisky annals. Professing a strong sentiment of déjà vu, Nick urged that lessons from yesterday be applied to today, referencing a number of past examples, such as 1887’s Kidd Eunson failure, whose consequences offer a stark warning to those encouraging, or even tolerating, the marketing of whisky as a private investment asset.
A feature common to all these examples was the departure from safeguarding the good name of whisky, as “a noble spirit to be treated with reverence” ( Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart) and instead succumbing to short-term greed, right across from value chain.
Nick bemoaned the current short-sighted approach, which he declared risks both financial and reputational industry damage, with its rise and fall both amplified to an unprecedented degree by insatiable social media and a gleeful press.
Continuing, he questioned why an industry with a “long and hard earned reputation for integrity and probity” seems happy to stand by, whilst its good name is “hawked around an unregulated marketplace by imposters”, with trade associations seemingly feigning indifference to the risks.
Whilst accepting that not all cask businesses are bad actors, Nick observed that, sadly, “one bad apple IS enough to spoil the whole barrel”, especially as the hyperbolic claims and high-pressure sales pitches seem common to all.
Finding parallels in the investment crises of the 1880/90s, he quoted the Pall Mall Gazette from the time, which cautioned that “careful scrutiny must be made before indulging in investment” and warned that “a boom has to be paid for, and usually by the investor”.
This latter point illustrates the Duty of Care which, Nick contended, the industry owes to its customers and which is arguably being ignored at present in the field of cask investment. Furthermore, he continued, quite apart from the question of business ethics, the public is not just purchasing generic ‘casks’ -it is buying into the heritage and reputations of the specific distilleries whence they came. So the responsible collective imperative should be to protect both the good name of distilleries and the financial security of consumers who have put their faith in those brands without any legal safeguards or recourse.
The apparent lack of any real motivation to act on this imperative, Nick concluded, means that the industry is setting itself up for a major fall and whisky as a private investment asset is “far from ‘good for growth’ – it is, in fact, good for nothing”.
Chairman Trevor Stirling then invited questions from the floor, which variously expressed scepticism around the concept of any halo reaching the mainstream from esoteric collector whisky, generally acknowledged that transparent investment in rarefied bottled whiskies (ie auctions) was a different question from the concerns around cask investment, and suggested that the urgent introduction of regulation of the latter would be a popular solution.
A concluding vote then demonstrated that the debate itself had further swayed opinion against the motion, with 40% of the audience actively opposing the view that “This House believes the emergence of Whisky as a Private Investment Asset is good for the growth of the wider whisk(e)y market”.
Offering thanks to participants and guests, The Master then invited all present to continue the conversation over drinks, whereby convivial discussions continued well into the evening, ably assisted by the generous sponsorship from Chivas Regal, Warner’s Gin, Everleaf non-alcoholic aperitifs and Double Dutch mixers.
The Scottish Committee travelled to the border’s town of Hawick for their spring meeting earlier this month. Some travelled by car, some by train followed by taxi, for the 50 miles trip from Edinburgh and further afield through stunning rolling green countryside with blue skies and sunshine adding to the vista.
L-R: Michael Urquhart, Alan Winchester, Norman Murray, Annabel Meikle, Jane Cumming, PM Kenny Mackay, John Fordyce, Mark Kent, Jerry Riley, Marcus Pickering, Iain Lochhead
Our destination was the Borders Distillery, a relatively new distillery which opened in March 2018, but it is the first borders distillery to be built and operated in the area since 1837. John Fordyce, the current MD, and his colleagues converted the building which previously housed Hawick’s electrical works since 1903, into a modern, bright award-winning building where the distillery it is today located next to the river Teviot. They distil gin, vodka, and spirit (to become whisky) here using barely from twelve local farms all within 35 miles of the distillery.
The business part of the meeting was spent reviewing past events and planning future events in the support of what the Worshipful Company do here in Scotland, supporting the work in VTEC, Charity, Military Affiliations and of course fellowship by way of organising the annual Scottish Dinner. We are returning to the Signet Library for the dinner again (this is our 6th dinner here) on Thursday 14th September and booking, which will be all done online this year, from, we anticipate, mid-June or early July. We do anticipate high demand so we would urge you to look out for the booking email from the Clerk’s Office and make your booking as soon as possible thereafter.
As well as the normal business, we held a ceremony to grant Freedom of the Company to five candidates: Jane Cumming, Norman Murray CBE, Mark Kent CMG, John Fordyce (our host) and Alan Winchester. We are delighted to welcome them to the Company as they start their journey to becoming Liverymen in due course.
After lunch we enjoyed a tour of the Distillery before heading back to all points north! Thank you, John, for your kind hospitality and there was quite a few bottles heading north which I am sure will be enjoyed in the days to come.
The English Whisky Guild (EWG) have announced the appointment of Morag Garden as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the EWG – the organisation’s first full-time employee.
Morag joins the EWG at a time when the English whisky industry is witnessing both remarkable growth and continued traction with whisky drinkers. With circa 50,000 casks of English whisky predicted to be laid down by distillers by the end of 2024, the value of this maturing stock is forecast to exceed £1bn over the same period1.
The EWG, which now consists of 23 member distilleries, selected Morag to spearhead the organisation following an extensive selection process. Morag joins the EWG following a distinguished career history including a decade at the Scotch Whisky Association and most recently, 18 months within a global sustainability consultancy.
This is the 3rd year running that our Education Partners at Heriot-Watt (International Centre for Brewing and Distilling) in Edinburgh have invited fellow Liveryman Steve Wilson to deliver a lecture to their MSc and undergrads students of Brewing and Distilling.
The subject…. the fascinating one of “Winning in Innovation” captures the imagination of our would-be next generation distillers and brewers.
The lecture on Thursday March 23rd (live via Teams and recording) was made available to a total of 101 students. There was a strong international cohort with students from USA, Canada, and China amongst other countries, being well represented. It was well received and student were particularly interesting in the development of Baileys and application of science from other industries into beverages.
A small sample of Steve Wilson’s lecture materials
Steve has enjoyed an illustrious career spanning almost 40 years with International Distillers and Vintners and Diageo leading the Global Innovation function for many years before retiring and continuing to consult in the field where his passion lies. Well known for creating a host of brands including Baileys, Archers, Aqua Libra, Tanqueray, Malibu, Smirnoff Ice, Ciroc Vodka , many Johnnie Walker expressions , the original Singleton Malt whisky and many, many more. His rich experience of successes and failures captivated the audience and delivered real insights into the real world of spirits and organisations and what it takes to succeed.
The lecture team at Heriot-Watt and the students have expressed huge appreciation to Steve and the WCD for supporting then in this way.
This is part of the WCD programme of knowledge sharing under our Vocational Training and Education initiative.
The 22nd City Food & Drink Lecture will be held on this date and the Key Note Speaker with be Sir Charles Godfray.
Sir Charles is the Director of the Oxford Martin School and the Oxford Programme on the Future of Food. His research interests include the UK and global food system, population and community ecology and how the global food system will need to change and adapt to the challenges facing humanity in the 21st century, and in particular in the concept of sustainable intensification, and the relationship between food production, ecosystem services and biodiversity. He is the leading scientist and academic of his generation and has a world wide reputation.
He will address the 2023 City Food & Drink Lecture on issues covering food security, the impact of the war in the Ukraine, how we might feed the 9 billion on the planet in the next generation, sustainability, diet, nutrition and climate change.
This promises to be another stimulating evening for all those who attend, either in person or on line. More details on how to book for this event will be sent out in due course, but for now, please “save the date”!
The Worshipful Company of Distillers Vocational Training and Education Committee (VTEC) has recently expanded the support it gives to the Livery’s educational partners to include work experience. An initial placement was organised and run through the Distillers’ network of producers, educators and students, a first example of the new vocational training and education strategy, pushing beyond simple funding into using the Livery’s connections to create new opportunities.
The effort to identify companies in the drinks industry able to offer students from the Distillers’ education partners work placements is being led by Alan Montague-Dennis. He and the VTEC team are already working with Copper Rivet, Cotswolds, Lindores and Summerhall distilleries, as well as Gordon & MacPhail, to identify potential work experience opportunities.
The road to the initial placement started in March 2022, when Amelia Webb, studying for a BSc in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot Watt university, was discussing her desire to gain practical experience as part of her studies with her tutor Dr Dawn Maskell, Director of the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling (ICBD). Dawn contacted the VTEC team, who contacted several distilling partners and quickly identified Summerhall Distillery – makers of Pickering’s Gin – as an ideal opportunity. They then put Amelia in contact with co-founder Marcus Pickering to organise hands-on distilling experience during the university’s summer break.
The VTEC team spoke to Amelia to learn a bit more about her time at Summerhall:
VTEC: How did the job came about?
Amelia Webb: I was hoping for summer work experience in the industry between my third and fourth year at university. I asked director of Brewing and Distilling Dr Dawn Maskell for some help in this matter as, like all the staff at Heriot Watt ICBD, they have great links and connections in the industry. I was originally put in touch with [WCD development director] Clive Bairsto, who I will forever be grateful to for introducing me to the Pickering’s team. He put my name forward to several distilleries and Summerhall kindly accepted me into their small yet efficient team.
L-R: Conor Lynch, Jason Toro, Amelia Webb, Quinn Miller, Marcus Pickering
VTEC: What was your experience when you got there?
AW: When I arrived at the distillery, I was struck at its wonderful location situated in the heart of Summerhall. I had never been into the building prior and was baffled by the fact this building is home to roughly 120 small businesses. The distillery team welcomed me, and I got straight to it. I started by weighing out and making up a batch of Red Top [Pickering’s classic London dry gin]. In their beautiful botanical room, I measured out the ingredients required and started the still run. I spent the rest of my time working there gathering experience with every aspect of the production process, including having the chance to make more gins from their core and export ranges.
A highlight of my time at Summerhall was being given the chance to use the mini stills to practice distilling and come up with my own gin recipe! I chose the following ingredients: rose, vanilla, apple, chrysanthemum, pink peppercorn, and hibiscus. Upon reflection, it needs refinement – adding my ingredients in addition to the core botanicals that make Pickering’s Gin was all too much.
I had such a fun time coming up with the recipe with the help of the distilling team. Conor, Jason, and Quinn were the most kind, genuine, and funny lads I have worked with, and I really had such a great time with them in the distillery.
VTEC: Any reflections on your time at Summerhall?
AW: I would like to thank the Pickering’s team for taking me under their wing and showing me the ropes. Even at such a stressful time of year as the run up to the Edinburgh Festival I had the best time, and the team made sure I was able to observe and help with all aspects of their business which gave me a fabulous grounding for entering my fourth and final year of studies at Heriot Watt.
The Distillers’ partnership with the ICBD, as with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (IBD) and Wine and Spirits Educational Trust (WSET), is blossoming. We continue to implement our new more holistic strategy, engaging in activities from providing bursaries and scholarships to mentoring, knowledge sharing between WCD member and now industry work experience.
The richness of what we as WCD can contribute to young people is only just beginning to be realised, and the prospects are exciting in terms of our reach and the activities we are able to support.
A thank you from the Master Chris Searle to all involved, with a special thanks to Dawn Maskell and Marcus Pickering for supporting the placement, and to Amelia Webb for her initiative in kick-starting the process.
If you have any questions or would like to investigate the potential of hosting work placement students, please contact Nick Carr, VTEC COMMS, through the Clerk’s Office: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was very fortunate to have been invited to this spectacular and wonderful event, representing the Company at the Tower of London, to mark the unveiling of Beefeater Crown Jewel gin.
Co-hosted by Ryan Chetiyawardana of Lyaness, Alessandro Palazzi of Dukes London and our very own Liveryman and Beefeater Master Distiller, Desmond Payne MBE, I felt very honoured and lucky to have been there, celebrating this iconic brand in it’s “home” setting.
My fellow guests, from London hospitality and charities, were surrounded by Beefeater(s), or more properly “Yeoman Warders”, so it really was a truly immersive experience!
Thank you, Beefeater and especially to Desmond who presided over the evening and made us all feel so very welcome. It was a fabulous evening!
Chris Porter Master 2021-22
The Master with Desmond Payne and the “Crown Jewel”!L-R: Raj Jadeja (Wigs for Heroes), The Master, Desmond Payne and Kaz Foncette (Wigs for Heroes)
The Joint Distillers and Marketors’ Panel Event, on 2 November 2022, examined the escalating popularity of rum.
The theme was “2023: Rum’s Time to Shine”: all agreed there was no time like the present for rum to be the next ‘big thing’ – with good rums now showing the complexity of 20-year old Bordeaux wine; and rum in prime spot to exploit the present-day “ready to drink” boom already underway.
Venue was by Tower Bridge at the naval establishment HMS President.
Gavin Evans and Archie, CEO and student from Distillers’ charity Future Youth Zone, Dagenham, kicked off with a review of recent philanthropic activities.
Then Distillers’ Steve Wilson (owner Cockspur Rum) and Geoffrey Robinson (Brand ambassador for Santa Teresa, Bacardi), and from the Marketors, David Elmer and Andrew Watson gave views on the global potential for rum; audience questions followed on the ‘uni-sex’ nature of its appeal, regulation of rum vs its enforcement, and the psychological well-being of rum consumption!
The mantra “Rum is just fun and sun!” emerged.
After the panel, 10 cocktails were sampled – from the traditional old-fashioned to rum punch – supported by Latin American tapas. With mixologists aplenty, a steel band, Tower Bridge with Thames rippling past, it was an extraordinarily lovely and informative evening.
Geoff Robinson gives a thumbs up to a Marketors’ point, with Liveryman Steve Wilson formulating a build…!Liveryman Philip Ewart-Lyons of Hattiers Rum in full flow behind the bar, with Marketor David Elmer out front tasting!Cask Group colleague, the Master Brewer, flanked by his Clerk to right and a Cooper to left, poses a challenging question to the panelMaster on the Tower Bridge veranda flanked by Beanie Espey, Trevor Stirling and James HigginsThe steel band “Steelosophical” making music…!Past Master Martin Riley addresses the assembled guests